23135
North Carolina
Great Outdoor Get-Together: Explore the Smokies
Explore the natural wonders of Nantahala National Forest and the Great Smoky Mountains during this epic weeklong event in North Carolina that combines rafting, hiking and history.
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Program No. 23135RJ
Length
8 days
Starts at
1,899
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8 days
7 nights
19 meals
7 B 6 L 6 D
DAY
1
Check-in, Registration, Welcome Dinner, Orientation
Bryson City, NC
D
Fryemont Inn

Activity note: Check-in available from 3:00 p.m. Driving approx. 70 miles from airport to Bryson City; about 1.5 hours.

Afternoon: For those who chose the “Free Airfare” option and will be arriving in Asheville on the first day of the program, shuttle service from Asheville Regional Airport will be provided at no additional cost. On arrival, participants should proceed to Baggage Claim, collect any checked baggage, and then report to the Shuttle Customer Counter (in the Ground Transportation/Baggage Claim area) for directions to the Road Scholar shuttle bus. After the beautiful drive to Bryson City, North Carolina, we will check in to our accommodations at either the Nantahala Outdoor Center (NOC) or Fryemont Inn. Program Registration 5:00 p.m. After you have your room assignment, come to the Road Scholar table in Kleinrath Hall on the NOC campus to register with the program staff and to confirm the time and location of the Orientation session. Shuttles will transport those staying at the Fryemont Inn to the NOC campus. If you arrive late, please ask for your packet when you check in.

Dinner: At Relia's Garden Restaurant, Nantahala Outdoor Center’s on-site dining establishment, we’ll have a delicious buffet Welcome Dinner with coffee, tea, water included; other beverages available for purchase.

Evening: Orientation. 6:00 – 7:00 p.m. The Group Leader will greet everyone and lead introductions. You’ll also get your welcome packet containing the up-to-date schedule that reflects any changes and other important information, which we’ll review. We’ll also discuss roles and responsibilities, logistics, safety guidelines, emergency procedures, and answer questions. At the time of enrollment, each participant selected either the “No Sweat” or the “Spirited” activity level. These two tracks will run concurrently throughout the program with activities appropriate for each level. Shuttles will be provided from The Fryemont Inn to NOC for meals and activities throughout the program. Unless otherwise specified, transportation will be provided primarily by vans or buses, depending on group size. Periods in the daily schedule designated as “Free time” and “At leisure” offer opportunities to do what you like and make your experience even more meaningful and memorable according to your personal preferences. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions. Program activities, schedules, personnel, and indicated distances or times may change due to local circumstances/conditions. In the event of changes, we will alert you as quickly as possible. Thank you for your understanding. Following the large group orientation, we will be broken up further into small groups where our Group Leaders will lead introductions and answer any questions you might have. Shuttles will be provided from NOC to the Fryemont Inn after orientation. Continue getting to know your fellow Road Scholars, settle in, and get a good night’s rest for the day ahead.

DAY
2
Hike & Leave No Trace Lesson, Whitewater Raft & Storytelling
Bryson City, NC
B,L,D
Fryemont Inn

Activity note: No Sweat Group: Driving approx. 20 miles one way; about 1/2 hour. Hiking up to 2 miles; approx. 1.5 hours; mostly flat with some elevation change, up/down earthen steps to waterfalls. Spirited Group: Short one-way transfer. Minimal walking. Rafting approx. 8 miles; about 2.5 hours; climbing in/out of raft, assistance provided as needed. Mostly Class I & II whitewater throughout, with Class III falls at the end; safety equipment and orientation provided.

Breakfast: At each group’s accommodation, enjoy breakfast to fuel up for the day. For each day of the program, Relia’s at NOC will feature a buffet breakfast, while Fryemont will serve plated meals. Juice, milk, coffee, tea, water included at both.

Morning: No Sweat: Setting out via vans, we will make our way to the trailhead to embark on a hiking field trip led by expert NOC staff. Along the way, we’ll learn about the unique scenery, flora, and fauna located in the Smoky Mountains. Spirited: After engaging in a safety training talk and transferring to the river by bus, we will cover a few more safety and navigation exercises with our expert NOC rafting leaders. Climbing into our rafts atop the crisp and clear waters of the Nantahala River, we’ll be on our way for a morning of excitement in an expert-led raft for our introduction to whitewater.

Lunch: During our respective field trips, each subgroup will enjoy sack lunches featuring a choice of wrap or sandwich, chips, fruit, snacks, and water.

Afternoon: No Sweat: After finishing up our morning field trip, we’ll transfer back to the NOC campus via buses where, upon arrival, trained NOC staff members will lead a presentation outlining the fundamentals of what Leave No Trace means. This awareness workshop will introduce us to the main principles of outdoor ethics in a fun and interactive way as we focus on planning and preparation, as well as how to minimize impact on the environment and others, including wildlife. Spirited: Our rafting trip will conclude on the NOC campus. After putting our gear away, we’ll walk to our meeting place on campus and join an expert on Cherokee history, legends, and language. We’ll settle in and listen to his messages that often emphasize hope and enlightenment, and hear his stories that reflect his lived experiences and encyclopedic knowledge of Cherokee culture.

Dinner: Relia's Garden Restaurant buffet.

Evening: Outside at the NOC, we’ll gather round the campfire and maybe start feeling like a kid again as we enjoy an evening with s'mores and stories about our day's explorations. Afterwards, shuttles will be provided from Nantahala Outdoor Center to the Fryemont Inn.

DAY
3
Whitewater Rafting & Storytelling, Smoky Mountain Hike
Bryson City, NC
B,L,D
Fryemont Inn

Activity note: No Sweat: Minimal walking. Rafting approx. 8 miles; about 2.5 hours; climbing in/out of raft, assistance provided as needed. Mostly Class I & II whitewater throughout, with Class III falls at the end; safety equipment and orientation provided. Spirited: Hiking up to 4 miles; about 4.5 hours; woodland trails, often narrow with exposed rocks, roots, some slippery footing, lengthy inclines.

Breakfast: At each group’s respective accommodations.

Morning: No Sweat: After engaging in a safety training talk and transferring to the river by bus, we will cover a few more safety and navigation exercises with our expert NOC rafting leaders. Climbing into our rafts atop the crisp and clear waters of the Nantahala River, we’ll be on our way for a morning of excitement in an expert-led raft for our introduction to whitewater. Our rafting trip will conclude on the NOC campus. Spirited: We will embark on an expert-led hiking field trip on a trail chosen by our Group Leader that takes advantage of the scenery, flora, and fauna located in the breathtaking Smoky Mountains.

Lunch: Outside at comfortable spots during our respective field trips, each group will enjoy healthy sack lunches.

Afternoon: No Sweat: After putting our gear away, we’ll walk to our on-site meeting place and join an expert on Cherokee history, legends, and language. We’ll settle in and listen to his messages that often emphasize hope and enlightenment, and hear his stories that reflect his lived experiences and encyclopedic knowledge of Cherokee culture. Spirited: Our hike will continue and, upon completion, we’ll transfer back to the NOC campus via bus.

Dinner: Relia's Garden Restaurant buffet.

Evening: At an on-campus meeting place, we’ll join an expert adventure and paddlesports competitor for a lecture focused on the beautiful and wild aspects of Antarctica.

DAY
4
Oconaluftee Indian Village, Museum of the Cherokee Indian
Bryson City, NC
B,L
Fryemont Inn

Activity note: Driving approx. 25 miles one way; about 1 hour roundtrip. Walking approx. 1.5 miles throughout the day; periods of standing; mostly level terrain, packed dirt and concrete.

Breakfast: At each group’s respective accommodations.

Morning: After transferring together to Oconaluftee Indian Village, a living history village devoted to representing the life and culture of Cherokee Native Americans from the 1760s, we’ll split into two smaller groups. One group will spending the morning with our local expert on site at the village while the other explores the Museum of the Cherokee Indian. After lunch, groups will swap activities so everyone can experience both activities and a full day of learning. While at Oconaluftee Indian Village, we’ll wander along winding paths seeing traditional housing structures and interacting with people working with customary tools to carry out a variety of projects such as weaving, hulling canoes, making beaded clothing, and sculpting time-honored crafts. We’ll also settle in for an incredible presentation on Cherokee blowguns, accompanied by a demonstration.

Lunch: On site, we’ll enjoy healthy packed lunches with sandwiches, snacks, and water.

Afternoon: The group who spent the morning at the village will then transfer to the on-site Museum of the Cherokee Indian to learn about the rich and extensive history of the Cherokee people through independent exploration. Those who began at the museum in the morning will spend the afternoon in the village. Spanning over 11,000 years marked by periods of beauty and ingenuity, as well as intense strife and injustice, the story of the Cherokee represented through the museum’s interactive exhibits and displays is guaranteed to teach, surprise, and inspire.

Dinner: This meal has been excluded from the program cost and is on your own to enjoy what you like in downtown Bryson City. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions.

Evening: Shuttles will be provided from Fryemont Inn to the NOC. The remainder of the evening will be at leisure.

DAY
5
Hike, Zip & Lake Kayak, Zip & River Kayak
Bryson City, NC
B,L,D
Fryemont Inn

Activity note: Each main group will subdivide for a day of specialized activities. We will follow this model later in the program as well, so everyone will have the opportunity to do everything.

Breakfast: At each group’s respective accommodations.

Morning: No Sweat Group 1: Setting out on an easy 2-mile hike (approx. 1.5 hours) with our hiking leaders, we’ll explore some local trails while taking in the scenery and our area and learning about its ecology. The terrain is mostly flat with some elevation change, and includes exposed roots, rocks, with some potentially slick footing. No Sweat Group 2: After arriving to the lake shore by van, we’ll learn from our certified kayaking instructors about safety procedures, necessary equipment, parts of the boats and paddles, and basic maneuvers. Once in our stable recreational kayaks on Fontana Lake, our instructors will accompany us while providing techniques for confidence, practice, and success. We’ll kayak 1 to 2 miles total throughout the day, dependent on personal preference. Our instructors will also teach us about the ecology of the area so we'll be able to identify some of the plants and wildlife in the Smoky Mountains as we explore the lake in our boats. Spirited Group 1: The morning will find us soaring through the air on NOC's Mountaintop Zip Lines for an exhilarating field trip. NOC aerial experts will lead us through 2 miles of unique mountain-to-mountain zip lines that will get us out of the forest and into the open air. We’ll enjoy panoramic views of Fontana Lake and Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The highlight is a heart-stopping half-mile Mega Zip where we’ll experience one full minute of flying 350 feet above the forest floor. The weight limit is between 100-250 pounds; safety equipment provided. Spirited Group 2: We’ll drive to the lake with our paddling instructors for our introductory course to whitewater kayaking. During this lesson, we’ll get acquainted with more maneuverable whitewater kayaks, similar to some of the ones you may have seen on the Nantahala River during our previous rafting trip. First on shore and then on the water, we’ll run drills to solidify our new skills and then take some time for independent practice.

Lunch: Outside at comfortable spots during our respective field trips, each group will enjoy healthy sack lunches.

Afternoon: No Sweat Group 1: The afternoon will find us soaring through the air on NOC's Mountaintop Zip Lines for an exhilarating field trip. NOC aerial experts will lead us through two miles of unique mountain-to-mountain zip lines that will get us out of the forest and into the open air. We’ll enjoy panoramic views of Fontana Lake and Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The highlight of the trip is a heart-stopping half-mile Mega Zip where we’ll experience one full minute of flying 350 feet above the forest floor. The zip-line weight limit is between 100-250 pounds; safety equipment provided. No Sweat Group 2: Kayaking on Fontana Lake will continue. Spirited Group 1: We’ll then go back to the Nantahala River for more whitewater excitement! This time, however, we’ll be in our own individual inflatable kayaks instead of rafts as we make our way 8 miles (approx. 2.5 hours) downstream on the Nantahala River with our expert kayaking leaders. We’ll be climbing in and out of boats with assistance provided as needed, and tackling Class I & II whitewater throughout, with an elective section of Class III at the end. Safety equipment and orientation provided. Spirited Group 2: We’ll transfer a short way by van to spend the afternoon on an approximately 2-mile section of mild Class I & II whitewater, applying the skills we learned during our morning whitewater kayaking session. Safety equipment and orientation provided.

Dinner: Relia's Garden Restaurant buffet.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
6
Great Smoky Mountains Railroad, Nantahala Gorge, Bryson City
Bryson City, NC
B,L,D
Fryemont Inn

Activity note: Driving approx. 16 miles one way to Bryson City; about 1/2 hour. Getting on/off train; ride is approx. 44 miles roundtrip; about 3.5 hours total aboard train; train car is open-aired. Walking approx. 1.5 miles total throughout the day; mostly flat terrain, city sidewalks. Comfortable walking shoes and sun protection is recommended.

Breakfast: At each group’s respective accommodations.

Morning: Both groups will be transferred by private bus with our Group Leaders to the depot in Bryson City where we’ll board a train and experience a relaxing ride along the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad through the Nantahala Gorge. As we make our way back to the NOC from Bryson City, our rail journey will offer highlights such as Horseshoe Curve, Fontana Lake Trestle (a 100-foot high trestle bridge that spans 780 feet across the lake), Little Tennessee River, and the Nantahala Gorge. Our train conductor will offer informative historical commentary as we ride. We’ll then get off the train for a lunch layover at NOC.

Lunch: At NOC’s Big Wesser Restaurant on the riverside, we’ll have a delicious meal with coffee, tea, water; other beverages available for purchase.

Afternoon: We’ll then get back on the train for transfer back to Bryson City. Upon arrival in this charmingly quaint town, we’ll enjoy some time for independent exploration and an opportunity to see and do what you wish. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions. We’ll then meet at a predetermined time and place for transfer by bus back to the Fryemont Inn.

Dinner: At the historic Fryemont Inn in Bryson City, NC, we’ll have a delicious meal with soft drinks, coffee, tea, water included; other beverages available for purchase.

Evening: Shuttles will be provided from Fryemont Inn to the NOC. The remainder of the evening will be at leisure.

DAY
7
Hike, Zip & Lake Kayak, Zip & River Kayak
Bryson City, NC
B,L,D
Fryemont Inn

Activity note: Each main group will subdivide for a day of specialized activities. We followed this model earlier in the program as well, so everyone will have the opportunity to do everything.

Breakfast: At each group’s respective accommodations.

Morning: No Sweat Group 1: After arriving to the lake shore by van, we’ll learn from our certified kayaking instructors about safety procedures, necessary equipment, parts of the boats and paddles, and basic maneuvers. Once in our stable recreational kayaks on Fontana Lake, our instructors will accompany us while providing techniques for confidence, practice, and success. We’ll kayak 1 to 2 miles total throughout the day, dependent on personal preference. Our instructors will also teach us about the ecology of the area so we'll be able to identify some of the plants and wildlife in the Smoky Mountains as we explore the lake in our boats. No Sweat Group 2: Setting out on an easy 2-mile hike (approx. 1.5 hours) with our hiking leaders, we’ll explore some local trails while taking in the scenery and our area and learning about its ecology. The terrain is mostly flat with some elevation change, and includes exposed roots, rocks, with some potentially slick footing. Spirited Group 1: We’ll drive to the lake with our paddling instructors for our introductory course to whitewater kayaking. During this lesson, we’ll get acquainted with more maneuverable whitewater kayaks, similar to some of the ones you may have seen on the Nantahala River during our previous rafting trip. First on shore and then on the water, we’ll run drills to solidify our new skills and then take some time for independent practice. Spirited Group 2: The morning will find us soaring through the air on NOC's Mountaintop Zip Lines for an exhilarating field trip. NOC aerial experts will lead us through 2 miles of unique mountain-to-mountain zip lines that will get us out of the forest and into the open air. We’ll enjoy panoramic views of Fontana Lake and Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The highlight is a heart-stopping half-mile Mega Zip where we’ll experience one full minute of flying 350 feet above the forest floor. The weight limit is between 100-250 pounds; safety equipment provided.

Lunch: Outside at comfortable spots during our respective field trips, each group will enjoy healthy sack lunches.

Afternoon: No Sweat Group 1: Kayaking on Fontana Lake will continue. No Sweat Group 2: The afternoon will find us soaring through the air on NOC's Mountaintop Zip Lines for an exhilarating field trip. NOC aerial experts will lead us through two miles of unique mountain-to-mountain zip lines that will get us out of the forest and into the open air. We’ll enjoy panoramic views of Fontana Lake and Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The highlight of the trip is a heart-stopping half-mile Mega Zip where we’ll experience one full minute of flying 350 feet above the forest floor. The zip-line weight limit is between 100-250 pounds; safety equipment provided. Spirited Group 1: We’ll transfer a short way by van to spend the afternoon on an approximately 2-mile section of mild Class I & II whitewater, applying the skills we learned during our morning whitewater kayaking session. Safety equipment and orientation provided. Spirited Group 2: We’ll then go back to the Nantahala River for more whitewater excitement! This time, however, we’ll be in our own individual inflatable kayaks instead of rafts as we make our way 8 miles (approx. 2.5 hours) downstream on the Nantahala River with our expert kayaking leaders. We’ll be climbing in and out of boats with assistance provided as needed, and tackling Class I & II whitewater throughout, with an elective section of Class III at the end. Safety equipment and orientation provided. All groups will then travel back to the NOC for dinner.

Dinner: On campus at the NOC, we’ll enjoy a delicious buffet farewell dinner with one alcoholic beverage included, plus coffee, tea, water; other beverages available for purchase. Share some of your favorite experiences from the program with new Road Scholar friends.

Evening: We’ll then gather on campus for a celebration of our adventurous week with a live performance by a local musician and a slideshow with photos of the week. Be sure to prepare for check-out and departures in the morning.

DAY
8
Program Concludes
Bryson City, NC
B

Activity note: Accommodation check-out by 10:00 a.m. Driving approx. 70 miles to airport in Asheville, NC; about 1.5 hours. Multiple shuttle departure times.

Breakfast: At each group’s respective accommodations.

Morning: For those who chose the “Free Airfare” option, Road Scholar shuttles will be departing for Asheville Regional Airport at multiple times throughout the morning. This concludes our program. If you are returning home, safe travels. If you are staying on independently, have a wonderful time. If you are transferring to another Road Scholar program, detailed instructions are included in your Information Packet for that program. We hope you enjoy Road Scholar learning adventures and look forward to having you on rewarding programs in the future. Don’t forget to join our Facebook page and follow us on Instagram. Best wishes for all your journeys!






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